Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Goat-Faced Girl by Leah Marinsky Sharpe and Jane Marinsky

The Goat-Faced Girl by Leah Marinsky Sharpe and Jane Marinsky was released this past October. It's the first time this Italian tale has been featured in its own picture book.

Product Description from publisher:

Like many good fables, this story opens with a foundling left – rather inconveniently, if not surprisingly – in the woods. A large lizard, ever conscious of tripping hazards, picks up the infant and takes her home, where she soon grows into a pretty, pampered, and generally useless young woman named Isabella. Despite her adoptive mother's efforts (for the lizard is really a witch in disguise) to shape her up, the girl prefers the alluring life offered her by the charming Prince Rupert, a world of cooks and servants, palaces and jewels, luxury and indolence.

Luckily, the lizard woman is a canny, concerned parent. She does not suffer fools lightly and is not about to let her daughter's too-easy transition to palace life go unchallenged. And so she arranges a surprise transformation for her daughter – one that puts the prince's marital plans on hold and gives the witch just enough time to hammer home a few lessons about the downside of idleness, the inanity of vanity, and the satisfactions of self-reliance.

In this witty, modern interpretation of a classic Italian folktale, Leah Marinsky Sharpe has crafted a light-hearted mother-daughter fable with a moral that is sure to strike a chord with readers of all ages. The illustrations by Jane Marinsky glow with rich color and playful humor. Together, words and pictures provide a zesty treat for parents and children alike.

It also has a nice review from Kirkus that can be read on its Amazon page.

Here is a great article about the book with an excerpt, but click through because the article is much longer: The girl who grew up not needing a prince by Jean Westmoore

The original “Goat-Faced Girl” tells of lazy, beautiful Renzolla, who is set to marry a king when her lizard-godmother curses her with a goat face for her ungrateful ways and the king locks her in a tower with tasks to perform so he won’t have to marry her. (The most shocking moment may be when Renzolla throws a puppy out the window because she is too lazy to take care of it.) At the end, the king is happy to marry her when she is beautiful again.

“I would tell it different ways, depending on the mood, but the general theme was that after the prince spent the entire time treating her badly, she never ended up with him,” says Marinsky Sharpe.

In this mother-daughter update, the lazy young woman, renamed Isabella, is cursed with a goat face and then rejected by Prince Rupert, but in doing the tasks he requires –planting turnips, cooking a meal and sewing a ballgown –she discovers the joy of taking care of herself. No puppies are thrown out the window, and there is no “happily ever after” for the prince.

The Lizard showing Goat-Face the Palace, an illustration for Goat-Face by Warwick Goble.

If you want to read the original versions, try these links: Goat-Face from Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile and The Goat-Faced Girl from Andrew Lang's Grey Fairy Book. The latter is the version the author of the new picture book grew up reading.

The tale is classified at ATU-900A, similar to King Thrushbeard tales (ATU-900).

As with most tales, however, the story also comfortably falls into the ATU-710 type with Our Lady's Child (Mary's Child) from the Brothers Grimm. Similar tales in this class include the Norwegian The Lassie and Her Godmother from Asbjornsen and Moe.

Here's also a link to a paperback version of The Grey Fairy Book, one of my favorites of Andrew Lang's colored fairy series. I stick with the Dover Publications editions myself for they are well-bound and edited with nice reproductions of the black and white illustrations by H. J. Ford and others. The color illustrations aren't included, but they rarely are in any reprints.


  1. Wow, I am unfamiliar with this tale, but it sounds really intriguing! I shall check this one out!

  2. It also got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6707976.html?q=the%20goat-faced%girl